Doctor Who – Summing up the Moffat Era, or ‘The Tale of Two Moffats’

What is the scariest thing ever imaginable to a Doctor Who fan? A Dalek? A Weeping Angel? The possibility of a second 15-year-long hiatus? Perhaps any or all of these could be considered, but the undoubted victor is the thought that, if one Moffat wasn’t enough, there might actually be two Moffats, and when one of the Moffat’s tenure as showrunner comes to an end, the second Moffat moves in to take his place. Those who reacted to that statement with the appropriate cold dread need not worry, however, as this process has already occurred, we just didn’t realise it at the time…

As Summer 2018 begins to show itself, it really does seem as though a new era is dawning for Doctor Who fans, who recently witnessed the departure of one of the longest running (and most controversial) showrunners in the history of the series. Steven Moffat, the man who at the time of his announcement as showrunner seemed to be the perfect choice to take on the responsibility, has now proven after 8 years at the helm of one of the most well-known and beloved franchises in history that regardless of raw talent, budget, direction or sociopolitical context, the ultimate key to maintaining a reputation is consistency. Most of the British public first heard of Steven Moffat following his string of fantastic episodes throughout the Russell T. Davies era, namely The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead, and it was because of the consistent quality, scare-factor and thought-provoking premises of his episodes that Steven Moffat earned the reputation for one of the greatest writers that the show had seen, and perhaps even of all time. But what happened during his tenure as showrunner that seems to have split a fanbase, that already had lasting divides, into the camps of ‘pro-Moffat’ and ‘anti-Moffat’?

The answer is, of course, not exactly clear. From a basic perspective, the tone of Moffat’s era differed drastically from that of Russell’s, in that whilst Russell focused on grand epic battles, emotional drama and the impact of the Time War on the Doctor, Moffat shifted the focus dramatically onto a much smaller-scale side to the Doctor’s life – the domestic life that he elects to pursue with Amy, Rory and River Song, whilst also changing the way the show itself presented the Doctor – rather than having the idea of the Doctor as a wanderer who amassed power through influence that Russel went with, Moffat instead constructed the idea of the ‘fairy-tale’ Doctor, a mad magician who saves the day in the most whimsical way possible. This encapsulates the earliest divide in the NuWho fanbase, as many fans who were used to Russell’s incarnation of the show lost interest as Matt Smith’s era reached its sixth or seventh series because the show simply wasn’t the same anymore. From a modern point of view, this split is easily spun to signify the ‘death of Doctor Who’ – naysayers at the time predicted that the show would never reach its fiftieth anniversary – but as most Doctor Who fans know by now, Russell’s era was just an era. It was a popular era, no doubts there, but as with all the best eras of Doctor Who, it had to end eventually. Unfortunately, many fans who were dissatisfied with Moffat and had only watched NuWho up until this point decided that Doctor Who would never be the same again, and so jumped ship.

However, this only explains how the ‘anti-Moffat’ camp first came to be, and there is certainly a lot more to the school of Moffat criticism than just preferring Russell’s era. It must also be pointed out that, amongst a sea of Moffat critics in the early 2010s, there were a vocal minority who believed that the show was better off without Russell and that although Moffat hadn’t exactly delivered a batch of 13 episodes that could all rival something like The Girl in the Fireplace in quality, Series 5 was still a very strong series. Even today, Series 5 is highly regarded as one of the best outings of NuWho, which is made all the more interesting when one factors in the idea that Series 5 is one of the few NuWho series that does not rely on any pre-existing marketable material – aside from one episode with the Daleks and a cameo of some old monsters in the finale, Series 5’s series arc revolved around something entirely original, something that Russell had never even attempted. In a similar manner to the change in focus, Moffat also seemed to change how the show treated its recurring elements – rather than relying on the Daleks for finale-filler like Russell did, Moffat instead put faith in his own ideas. Things like River Song and The Silence became much more prominent in the early years of Moffat’s era whereas races like the Daleks and the Cybermen barely got a look in. This would seemingly mark the next step in evolution for ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ Moffat factions – the idea that the show needs to rely on the Daleks and Cybermen is ultimately self destructive, and yet fanboys like myself simply cannot bear to see a series of Doctor Who without them, and thanks to a series of lacklustre cameos and the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks many Dalek fans opinion of Moffat turned sour.

Of course, there are many more reasons why the fanbase split on Moffat, and even more explanations as to why his writing quality appeared to decline between Series 6 and 7 – blame is often put on the attention dedicated to Sherlock, the poor characterisation of new companion Clara Oswald as well as a general lack of direction in the Silence/River Song story arc. But following the success of the 50th Anniversary Special and the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi in 2013, hindsight tells us that the old Moffat must have given up and walked out, with the fresh second Moffat ready and waiting to take over the show and make it his own, because when Doctor Who came back in 2014 it was totally different from anything NuWho had seen before, and the changes wouldn’t stop there. Capaldi’s first series was still very much a Moffat creation – it contains his narrative mannerisms, his method of misdirection when it comes to revealing crucial plot points, and his… ‘unique’ way of writing dialogue between men and women. But the focus of the show shifted again, and for many it seemed to be shifting back to the same things that Russell had focused on. Whilst Matt Smith’s era practically ignored the Daleks, Capaldi faced them in his second episode that drew heavy inspiration from the first Dalek episode of Russell’s era. Cybermen appeared in the finale of Series 8, this time as a worldwide and present threat rather than as a babysitter to James Corden’s baby or as a fairground attraction as they had been in Matt Smith’s era. And not only that, but Capaldi’s era saw the return of two essential classic series villains who had featured in Russell’s era – the Master, this time in the form of Missy, and Davros. Capaldi’s era still had lingering elements of the ‘fairytale’ interpretation of the Doctor from Matt Smith’s era, but the universe it presented dropped any pretence of the whimsical feel of Moffat’s tenure that we had seen so far and instead seemed to ‘reboot’ the modern Doctor Who universe, bringing it more in line with what Russell constructed throughout his tenure and allowing fans who disliked Matt Smith or his era to make a ‘clean break’ and pick the show back up.

Ultimately, this is where the notion of the ‘two Moffats’ comes from – on the one hand you have Matt Smith Moffat, whose era is seemingly self-contained, has little impact from either the classic series or Russell’s NuWho, aside from a handful of obvious examples, such as the cameo appearance of an Ood and the Russell era control room in The Doctor’s Wife, a mention of the battle to save reality from Journey’s End in Victory of the Daleks and the appearance of an Ice Warrior in Cold War, to name a few. Generally, however, Matt Smith’s era relied on its own internal logic, its own original villains and its own original characters to get by, almost like a show within a show. On the other hand, Peter Capaldi Moffat came along after Smith’s era was done and decided that Doctor Who needed to wake up and resume many of the ongoing plot threads that had been on hold during the Smith era – namely, the Doctor’s relationship with the Daleks and Davros, the Doctor/Master friendship/rivalry, the impact of the return of Rassilon and the fate of Gallifrey. Capaldi’s era also sees many reappearances from races or characters in the show’s history that serve as more than just cameos – the Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm’s Master in the Series 10 finale being the most significant. But what can be gleaned from all of this? It is hard to compare the two Moffats, since both have caused their fair share of controversy within the show’s fanbase, and ultimately the decision comes down to personal preference between Matt Smith’s era and Peter Capaldi’s. But next time the inevitable debate over ‘who is better: Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat’ pops up, remember that the actual debate should be ‘who is better: Steven Moffat (2010-2013) or Steven Moffat (2014-2017)’

And that concludes the terrifying tale of the Two Moffats. I hope you enjoyed, if you did be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Be sure to check out the ‘Read More’ section below, and thanks for reading!

 

 

How to Fix – Star Trek: First Contact

Welcome to the next article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

Of all the Star Trek: The Next Generation films, First Contact is definitely the least terrible, objectively speaking. In many ways, it could actually be considered one of the better Star Trek movies, but there are just a few things about the film that definitely hold it back, not least the fact that it shifted the tone and focus of Star Trek ever closer to action and further from its lore-heavy sci-fi roots. With that said, here are just a few ways in which First Contact could be improved. To start:

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The film should have been set on the Enterprise-D

This one is early on the list because it isn’t really fair to First Contact to criticise it on this point, since it was the previous film (the godawful Generations) that committed the ultimate crime of destroying the Enteprise-D in the stupidest way possible. Nonetheless, the impact of First Contact is lessened thanks to the Enterprise-D’s conspicuous absence, because as far as the audience is concerned this film could have taken place on any random Federation ship and it wouldn’t have made a difference. We don’t know the Enterprise-E well enough to care about it being assimilated by the Borg, which is a huge part of what drives the narrative of the film. After all, the majority of Picard’s conflict throughout the movie is related to his unwillingness to destroy the Enterprise to stop the Borg, and this would have connected with the audience if the ship he was talking about was the vessel we had come to know and love throughout the show rather than a recent replacement that we had barely seen yet.

Imagine an alternate version of this film in which it was the Enterprise-D that was being attacked and not the E. It would have been more poignant to see the D’s engine room infested with Borg, or to have the argument between Picard and Worf happen on a damaged version of the D’s bridge instead of the bland set they cobbled together for the E. And if it really was the intention of the writers to destroy the D, it should have been done here rather than in Generations, as sacrificing the Enterprise-D to destroy the Botg Queen would have been a much better sendoff for the ship than having it crash after being attacked by a ship less than a tenth of its size.

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Expand on the character of the Borg Queen, or at least explain what she is

Many cite First Contact as the beginning of the end for the Borg, since it was just after this film that the threat of their constant attempts to assimilate Starfleet began to wane. This was made all the worse by their constant overuse in Voyager, but that can be a topic for another day. What threw the Borg ‘off-track’, so to speak, was the introduction of the Borg Queen without any attempt to explain why she actually exists in the first place. The film essentially turns everything we already understood about the Borg on its head, without giving any satisfying reason as to why, simply to introduce a fairly uninspired villain with confusing motives.

The Borg are a hive-mind, and by definition have no leader, and yet the writers of First Contact obviously decided that the Borg were a hive in the literal sense, as in a hive of bees, and by that logic they needed a Queen. In theory, this could work – the Borg might need one particular individual drone to store command data, or provide an imaginative insight into how the Borg should expand, or even as a variant of ‘Locutus’ that is required to communicate with other races. What we got in First Contact was a Queen who seemed totally detached from the Borg, almost as if she was some other entity that had taken control of them, and no concrete explanation as to why the Borg even need a Queen. Data himself expresses his confusion over the concept, but the Queen just brushes it off and quickly moves on. In order for this antagonist to work, it must first be explained what her motives are and why she exists in the first place.

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Make Picard more like Picard

Since this was a movie and not an episode on a TV show, Picard seemed to suddenly develop a Rambo complex in this film. He brutally murders a fellow Starfleet officer in cold blood to prevent him from becoming a Borg drone, despite the fact that he himself was once assimilated and was later rescued and returned to normal. He screams like a maniac when firing a machine gun at the Borg (which definitely shouldn’t affect them since earlier in the film Data is shot with a machine gun and, strangely, suffers no damage whatsoever) and then later screams the infamous ‘NOOOOO’ while smashing up his office. And, to top it all off, at the end of the film he just snaps the Borg Queen’s neck, despite the fact that she had been beaten and was essentially a harmless spinal column writhing around on the floor.

So what should he have been like? Well, more like how he was in the TV show. He shouldn’t have been driven by hate of the Borg or a desire for revenge, because that is totally outside of what we have come to expect from his character. In fact, the entire ‘Picard has Borg PTSD’ was invented entirely for this movie – even after he was assimilated Picard fought the Borg many times, and even had a chance to totally destroy them, and yet he showed none of these feelings of anger that have suddenly cropped up for no explainable reason. If anything, it would have been far more interesting to see a character like Data go through this arc, since his newfound emotions are still somewhat unstable and he clearly finds the idea of the Borg disgusting as they want to eradicate humanity, the very thing that he looks up to.

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Remove the Earth sub-plot

Admit it, nobody watches this film for Zefram Cochrane. The Earth subplot is cheesey, makes no sense in terms of the temporal Prime Directive and only serves to create a cliche tension-built climax at the end, when it looks like the Borg are about to destroy human history by ensuring they never discover Warp Travel. Admittedly, the character of Lily is an interesting inclusion, and having someone with no knowledge of starships, Borg, the Federation or phasers bumbling around on a ship in the middle of a Borg attack seems like something that The Next Generation would have done on the show. However, Lily could have ended up on the ship for any number of reasons, and then dropped off on Earth at the end while promising to tell no-one of what she saw, which would have spared the audience scenes with awful dancing, dated music, cringe-inducing dialogue and Deanna Troi getting drunk.

Alternatively, those scenes could be replaced with more of the action that is happening on the Enterprise, which is what people are actually watching the film for. If the subplot with the Phoenix has to be a focus, then perhaps Lily could be written as a character who is somehow crucial to the launch, and it is imperative that the crew get her back to Earth unharmed before the launch is scheduled to occur.

In fairness, First Contact is the best of the TNG movies, and it certainly defeats its predecessor hands down. But with just a few tweaks, it could have been one of the best Star Trek movies of all time. If you enjoyed, you can follow us either here or on Facebook and be sure to leave a like. Thanks for reading!

Star Wars – 5 Best and 5 Worst Changes to the Original Trilogy

An interesting quirk that Star Wars fans have to deal with in the re-releases of the Original Star Wars Trilogy is that, since the original film was released on VHS for the first time in 1985, George Lucas has been tweaking his creations by implementing changes to all aspects of the film – effects, dialogue, sometimes entire characters and scenes have been removed, added or altered in all three original films and even some of the prequels. The topic of the re-release changes has created some debate in the fandom, with some arguing that the changes improve the films and others preferring the original releases. It wouldn’t be as bad if there was a version of the original Star Wars film out there, but since the changes began with the original release, it is now impossible to watch the film in its original state, regardless of whether you like the changes or not. With that in mind, here is my list of the 5 Best and 5 Worst changes to the beloved series.

Best Changes:

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5 – Improved Effects

This is an obvious choice, but the re-releases do improve most of the effects in the film, with just a few exceptions. One might argue that the film’s original effects were part of what made it so good – after all, at the time of release the visuals were one of the major selling points of Star Wars. But most fans agree that there’s nothing wrong with bringing the original films up-to-date with modern special effects, and that certainly shows when you compare scenes like the Battle of Yavin where the older effects do somewhat break immersion, particularly if you are used to the newer releases. The improved laser blasts and lightsaber effects make the action scenes appear less scratchy, and improve continuity between this trilogy and the ones that come before and after it in the timeline. It would certainly be

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4 – Oola

It’s strange to consider when you watch it now, but in the original cut of Return of the Jedi Oola’s death scene was much more brief – she simply falls down the trap door into the Rancor pit in Jabba’s Palace, and the Rancor reveal is saved for later. Amazingly, the actress who played Oola filmed the extended death scene over a decade after first appearing in Jedi, with no difference to the visuals whatsoever. The Rancor isn’t revealed completely, meaning that the impact of its later appearance isn’t spoiled, but it does create a menacing scene showing more of the mercilessness of Jabba’s henchmen. Interestingly, Oola was allegedly supposed to have a much larger role in the film, but due to changes in the script her role was drastically reduced, so if anything this change simply provides a bit more screen-time for a fan-favourite character.

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3 – Victory Celebration

This one might be controversial, but the change to the music at the end of Return of the Jedi is, in my opinion, one of the best decisions George Lucas ever made. The original song that played during the celebrations on Endor was ‘Yub Nub’, a nonsensical and comically puerile ditty that doesn’t do the finale justice, but the replacement, John Williams’ aptly-titled ‘Victory Celebration’, seems a much more fitting tune to end the original trilogy. For comparison, one needs only to look at the ending of A New Hope – the tune used there fits the tone and gravitas of the scene, and ‘Yub Nub’ simply does not. Whilst it is a fan-favourite, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice for what is to some the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. But, then again, the dancing doesn’t sync up with the new tune as well.

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2 – The Real Palpatine

As important as  it is to remember Marjorie Eaton, the original actress who portrayed the Emperor – and yes, I said ‘actress’, as Clive Revill was merely dubbed over her performance – for the sake of continuity her original scenes as the Emperor no longer work. In heavy makeup with digitally inserted chimpanzee eyes, the 78 year old effectively filled in for the Emperor in the original 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back but, after Ian McDiarmid was cast as Palpatine for Return of the Jedi and then again in the prequels, it only makes sense to retroactively insert him into Empire as well. Admittedly, as many have stated before, the original Emperor does appear more visually intimidating, with some criticizing the newer editions for making the Emperor look outright bored as he calmly drops the bombshell onto Vader that Luke is Anakin’s son, and sort of ruins the idea that Vader came to that conclusion himself. Nonetheless, A+ for effort.

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1 – Young Anakin

Okay, before I even explain the details of this change, I would like to get one thing out of the way first: I understand why people hate this change. In fact, for many years I too cringed in resentment at the awkward, out-of-place looking Hayden Christensen who had been clumsily imposed over the charming, warm smile of Sebastian Shaw that was in the original cut of Return of the Jedi. Upon reflection, however, I have also conceded that I understand why this change was made, and in many ways it is one of the most important changes to the Star Wars films because it establishes something interesting about the Force and about the character of Darth Vader that was only hinted at in the original films. By showing Anakin’s ghost as he looked in his youth, it firmly establishes the idea that the dark side corrupted and twisted Anakin to such an extent that by the time he had been burned alive on Mustafar he wasn’t even the same man anymore. Anakin being burned and chopped up and turned into a Cyberman is just a formality, Vader consumed him during the events of Revenge of the Sith meaning that, in returning to his former self in death, Anakin lives on through the Force in the way that he was before his turn. This brings a whole weight of validation onto the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi who, when you consider how he goes about relating the events of the prequels to Luke, comes across as a manipulative and downright inconsiderate arse-hole who attempts to warp Luke’s perception of reality to fit his worldview. If, however, we accept that the redeemed Anakin Skywalker appears to Luke in the form of his younger self, it not only metaphorically shows that the corruption of Vader has fallen away to reveal the man he once was, but it also shows that the nature of the Force itself backs Obi-Wan’s claim that Vader and Anakin are separate entities, and that is arguably far more important to the story than just seeing Vader as he would have looked if he hadn’t turned evil. From a technical standpoint, the change itself needs work (mostly to make Hayden look less creepy for no reason) but ultimately I believe it adds to the depth of the lore of the Force and I will gladly agree to disagree with anyone who says otherwise.

But now, let’s take a look at some of the really bad changes to the Star Wars films…

Worst Changes:

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5 – Jabba the Hutt in A New Hope

Although some like the inclusion of the unused ‘Jabba’ scene from A New Hope that digitally replaces the man who was originally going to be ‘Jabba’ with the slimy slug-like Hutt that we all know him as today, this change is fundamentally awful for a number of reasons. For one, when it was originally included in the 1997 re-release of A New Hope, the CGI Jabba looked absolutely horrendous – it would be hard to distinguish between it and the Globgogabgalab if the latter didn’t periodically break into song. In fact, if my previous list of terrible CGI characters had included a section on the original trilogy, this Jabba would have topped the list. Thankfully the 2004 re-release of A New Hope changed Jabba into something that looked a little bit more like what we remember from Return of the Jedi but that still doesn’t answer the question of why this scene is even necessary in the first place – for one, it spoils the reveal of Jabba from Jedi, and it doesn’t establish anything that we didn’t know from the previous Cantina scene. To add insult to injury, Han steps on Jabba’s tail, something he would probably have been killed for if this was the real Jabba instead of a CGI imposter.

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4 – Vader’s ‘Nooooo’

This change is a perfect example of how altering the tiniest detail can have a whole lot of impact. Adding in Vader screaming ‘No’ Revenge of the Sith-style into the climax of Return of the Jedi essentially threw any hope of subtlety in the scene out of the window, with the Emperor cackling maniacally like the pantomime villain that he is in Jedi. After all, wouldn’t the Emperor hear him say it and blast him with lightning instead? The point of his betrayal originally was that it was totally unexpected – the Emperor never had a chance to stop Vader by the time he had been lifted into the air and hurled over the balcony to plummet to his death, but now it just makes Palpatine look like an idiot. Speaking of treating people like idiots, surely the audience can basically figure out by his body language and actions that Vader is saving Luke without a clear statement from him? But according to Lucas, everything needs to be spelled out for us, it’s not like we’ve had over 30 years to figure out what Vader must have been thinking during the final scene.

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3 – CGI creatures everywhere

It’s almost comical when watching it back, but the iconic ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ scene in A New Hope now begins with a really close up shot of a reptilian creature lumbering in the way of the camera, totally blocking the shot and obscuring all of the main characters for seemingly no reason whatsoever. But that’s not the only creature that was added in to the original trilogy, there are plenty – a Dug (one of Sebulba’s species, for anyone who wanted a grim reminder of The Phantom Menace) can now be seen in Jabba’s palace, the Wampa now gets a full reveal (spoiling the ambiguity of the creature) and that dance number in Return of the Jedi makes me want to burn everything in my house that links me to Star Wars. Seriously, it’s that bad. Heck, they may as well go and retroactively add Porgs into the films, scurrying around on the Millennium Falcon or screeching over the dialogue in Empire. In fact, it’s not just the addition of creatures that make this so bad – Lucas couldn’t even digitally insert a rock in front of R2-D2 whilst he hides from the Tusken Raiders without having it disappear between shots, and the gap when it is there be too small for R2-D2 to even fit through. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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2 – Greedo Shooting First

It may surprise some that this isn’t number one, because it has become the most infamous change to the Star Wars films with, the motto ‘Han Shot First’ seemingly encompassing the Star Wars fandom’s rejection of the majority of George Lucas’ changes to the films. After all, Greedo shooting first not only detracts from the firm establishment of Han Solo as a no-nonsense, quick-triggered badass, but it also devalues him as a character – what kind of bounty hunter can fire at that close a range whilst sitting down and having a totally clear shot and yet still miss? Is this another attempt by Lucas to add out-of-place slapstick humour to Star Wars that absolutely fails at every level? Ignoring the neck-breaking head motion that Han has been edited to perform in newer releases with this edit, the change just doesn’t look right. Everything happens so fast that it’s impossible to tell why Lucas felt this was necessary, aside from a vague excuse that ‘good guys don’t shoot people’. Well George, tell that to the dozens of Stormtroopers who are dispatched by Han throughout the movies, they’re people too.

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1 – Boba Fett’s voice

This is the change that I take most issue with, regardless of the whole ‘who shot first’ fiasco. In fairness, this change was obviously made with continuity in mind, rather than just a random desire to pollute the frame with more random CGI creations like the Stormtroopers on the Death Star or the Max Reebo band – for those not aware, Boba Fett is revealed to be a clone of Jango Fett who features in Attack of the Clones. Obviously by replacing James Wingreen’s voice from the original cut of Empire with the voice of Temura Morrison, who played Jango, Lucas was bridging the gap between Clones and Empire and admittedly, this change could have been done well under different circumstances. But the fact of the matter is that Wingreen’s performance was just so much better than Morrison’s, and even if you apply the logic that Boba is a clone, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he had the exact same voice – after all, environmental factors have much more of an impact on accent than genetics, making this change ultimately pointless.

So that was my list of the Top 5 Best and Worst Changes to the Star Wars movies, I hope you enjoyed, if you did then you can always leave a like either here or on Facebook, and be sure to follow us if you want to read more content like this!

 

 

 

 

How to Fix – The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

Well, here we have an example of something that certainly isn’t broken… or is it? For years I held both The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End in quite high regard as far as Doctor Who episodes go, and it had all the essential elements that my teenage self looked for a great Doctor Who story – returning characters, planetary invasion, death, Daleks – everything you could possibly ask for. Upon more recent reflection, however, it occurs to me that this two-parter, or more specifically the second part of this two-parter, isn’t all that it was cracked up to be. After showing this episode to some friends who had never really seen much Doctor Who before (if at all) I got a more objective view on why this episode doesn’t really hold up, and so I now present my latest ‘How to Fix’, this time focusing on the subject of David Tennant’s last series finale (technically): The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. And to start with, arguably the easiest point to make:

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Keep The Stolen Earth basically the same

Okay, so this is cheating a bit. When I say basically the same, I mean keep the fundamentals of the plot intact, because honestly The Stolen Earth is pretty fantastic, its just its successor that lets it down. Aside from some more specific details regarding Martha, which we will get to later, this episode does a great job of building up the tension of an imminent Dalek invasion that the Doctor is not there to prevent or even help mitigate. We get a very real idea of how threatening the Daleks can be as they bomb Manhatten, attack major military bases to exterminate anyone who might stand against them, critically damage the Valiant and assassinate the US President. Whilst my instinct is to always suggest that more screen time be dedicated to the Daleks causing havoc on-screen, I can begrudgingly accept that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the producers of The Stolen Earth did a great job with the budget. Likewise, all of the setup for the finale with all the NuWho companions (and Sarah Jane) teaming up is brilliant, and Harriet Jones’ death was done with dignity and purpose. Essentially, the only thing that should be changed about The Stolen Earth relates to more pressing points that I will get to later, so to move swiftly on:

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Expand Martha’s Role, and make her more in-character

The greatest crime Russell T. Davies ever committed was writing the fantastic character that is Martha Jones and then wasting her on an arc that essentially amounted to her being the ‘rebound companion’ from Rose. My thoughts on both Rose and the Tenth Doctor have already been made clear, and to reiterate once again, I do not hate the Tenth Doctor. I simply find it baffling that people will regard him as their favourite without accounting for some of the more questionable actions he takes during his tenure. Similarly, I find some of Russell’s executive decisions to be equally as baffling – he clearly understood the misstep in writing Martha out of the show so quickly, and then found no less than three ways to bring her back – first as a stand-in for a generic UNIT commander in The Sontaran Stratagem, then later in the same series for this two-parter, and finally The End of Time. Yet in none of these sheepish reappearances does Martha live up to her potential, as she seems to be a completely different person than who she was in Series 3.

Admittedly, a lot has happened for Martha in this time – she had to spend a year on a devastated Earth, battling the various forces that the Master set against her during his time as ruler of Earth (which, although was later undone, the memories of which are still retained in her mind). Also, since she now works for UNIT, it is possible that more militaristic training his taken precedent over the life lessons that she gleaned from her time in the TARDIS, but still – the idea that Martha Jones would intentionally attempt to destroy Earth in a mass-genocidal nuclear apocalypse is not only outrageously stupid but also a monumental insult to her character. Instead of concocting the idea of a secret UNIT plan to destroy Earth, Russell should have had Martha focused on finding and uniting all of the Doctor’s companions scattered across Earth, since she was a member of UNIT and the person in the best position to track them down. Instead this role goes to Harriet Jones, and as I said previously, she is well used in this episode – but rather than transferring the ability to locate the Doctor’s friends to Torchwood (an organisation buried underground in South Wales) why not give it to UNIT? That way Martha could have been the one to use the teleportation harness to gather together everyone who could lend a hand, rather than expecting them all to somehow make their own way to the Dalek Mothership. On that note:

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Make the Daleks a consistent threat

This is always an issue with Doctor Who, but it is plainly obvious here – sometimes the Daleks appear in an episode as a major threat, and in others they appear as laughable imbeciles. Russell achieves the extraordinary with this two-parter in that he manages to make the Daleks shift from the latter to the former in the space of one story – in The Stolen Earth, the Daleks appear as an unstoppable intergalactic power, capturing and invading  planets and bombing entire cities into submission. By Journey’s End, however, they are reduced to fodder, and are all destroyed in one of Russell’s most unwarranted and outlandish deus ex machinas yet. So what happened?

As usual, it comes down to focus – Journey’s End spends far too much time on exposition and not a lot on action, so the end product is anticlimactic. It seems laughable now that Russell wrote this entire episode in order to get the companions all together in one room, but didn’t write the episode with enough gravitas to give any of them anything to do, so despite all the wild and increasingly nonsensical plans that Jack, Sarah Jane, Martha and Donna all come up with to stop the Daleks, they all end up just sitting in those ‘ray shields’ from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Surely a better idea would be to have the Daleks actually doing something that required the companions to be out fighting them, allowing the Doctor and Davros to have their dialogue in a setting that was more suitable? Ironically a Davros episode that handles this much better is Series 9’s The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar, as whilst the Doctor and Davros have their obligatory hearts-to-heart, Missy and Clara are out fighting Daleks. But I digress…

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Have at least one Classic Who companion return, even just as a cameo

Whilst this isn’t essential to fixing this episode, I thought I might as well include it since it always bothered me. If Harriet Jones’ subwave network was designed to seek out anyone and everyone who could help the Doctor, why did it only end up contacting companions who had appeared in previous David Tennant stories? Again, it all comes down to pacing and focus – the episode is already cluttered enough as it is, and surely shoehorning in a classic companion would just ruin the pacing. But the episode manages to incorporate pointless scenes of Martha’s mother who, in this ‘fixed’ version of events, wouldn’t be necessary, so perhaps a short cameo from Sophie Aldred or Kate Manning wouldn’t seem so bad. And for anyone who uses the argument that kids wouldn’t know who these old characters were, my rebuttal is: who cares? Nobody knows who any of the characters in anything are until they are introduced, and since this episode manages to coherently place Harriet Jones into the narrative (a character we hadn’t seen for two years at the time of broadcast) then it could have done the same for an aged Ace or Jo Grant, even if it was literally in the capacity on showing up on the screen to facilitate the delivery of a single plot point (the location of the Dalek Mothership, for example?) in a similar manner to the appearances of Harriet Jones, Sarah Jane, the Shadow Proclamation and Rose. Anyway, back to the actual plot-relevant fixes:

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Completely Change the Ending

Even aside from the ridiculous ending that essentially elevates Donna to this years ‘most important person on Doctor Who until the next most important person on Doctor Who’, the conclusion to her ‘DoctorDonna’ arc is, for lack of a better word, disturbing. And not in the way that Doctor Who is supposed to be. For one, surely the entire point of Donna as a character was for her to not end up being nothing more than a plot device? After all, Russell had attempted to subvert a lot of the pre-existing NuWho companion tropes with Donna – she made it clear early on that she didn’t want a romantic relationship with the Doctor, she reacted to situations with much more anger and ‘sass’ than previous companions had, and she actively hunted the Doctor down rather than simply being swept up in an adventure. But it seems for her sendoff Russell just couldn’t bring himself to not ruin her character, so we got the nonsensical premise that because Donna wasn’t good enough to save the day on her own, she needed the Doctor’s mind to do it for her, and as icing on the cake, the Doctor then forcibly removes himself from her brain and essentially resets her back to factory settings, removing all the character development she had had over the previous series.

The scene is undeniably tragic, and when you try not to think about the horrible implications of the Doctor’s actions, it leaves a dark and melancholy tone that really works for Doctor Who. It is how it was done that many people take issue with, to the extent that Moffat wrote not one but two subversions of this scene into his run – the first in which Clara refuses to allow the Doctor to wipe her memory, instead opting for a 50/50 chance that one of them would lose their memory of the other (Spoilers: its the Doctor who ends up suffering this fate), and the second when Bill outright refuses to allow the Doctor to wipe her mind in her first episode and he eventually repents, probably after realising that wiping Donna’s mind when she clearly expressed the desire to remain how she was essentially amounted to assault. After all, she had all of the Doctor’s intelligence, and so was more capable than ever at that point to make a decision on whether or not she wanted to stay that way, regardless of what it would do to her.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

How to Fix – Attack of the Clones

Welcome to the first article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

To introduce my new series, I will be focusing on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, a film that is considered by many to be among the worst of the Star Wars franchise alongside The Phantom Menace and (dare I say it?) The Last Jedi. This film is probably the Star Wars Prequel film that I have seen the most, and I adored it as a child, but it is not without its flaws. Some of the fixes here will also involve small alterations to The Phantom Menace, which I have purposely skipped as to attempt to correct the huge amount of plot holes in that film would require an entire rewrite of the script. So without further ado, lets start with the most obvious fix to Attack of the Clones:

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Change the Backstory of the film so that it is easier to Understand

A major criticism levied against the Prequels is the excessive use of political dialogue, particularly considering the film is supposed to be for children. This could work if it was done well, and in a way that was simple enough for children to at least grasp the basics whilst also not boring adults who don’t have a clue what the characters are talking about half of the time. Attack of the Clones commits the cardinal sin of having a tonne of political dialogue that not only has no preliminary explanation whatsoever, but also crosses in the realms of the ridiculous even from a political standpoint.

For a start, the film should make it clear who the main villain is from the beginning. Rather than hiding the reveal of Dooku until the very end, the film should demonstrate who Dooku is and why he is a threat as soon as possible in more than just dialogue between the Jedi and Senator Amidala. Realistically, Dooku should have been in The Phantom Menace as a member of the Jedi Council, that way we’d at least have a face to put to the name when we’re watching Attack of the Clones, and would also serve to demonstrate that not even the wisest and most powerful of the Jedi can resist the lure of the Dark Side entirely.

From the similar vein, the mysterious ‘Sifo Dyas’ should have at least made an appearance. Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Dyas as if we, the audience, are already aware of his existence – we are never given any explanation as to who Dyas was, when and how he died, why he would want to order the Clone army, and how he paid for it. We must assume that he was somehow a puppet for Sidious, and apparently in an earlier draft of the film ‘Sifo Dyas’ was a disguise that Sidious used to order the clones himself. Ultimately, the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace should have had both Dooku and Sifo Dyas as members in order for the backstory of Attack of the Clones to make sense, and the political dialogue should have been reduced or altered. On that point:

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Expand the role of  Padmé Amidala

For the prequel trilogy’s leading lady, Padmé Amidala is woefully underused and blatantly one-dimensional. To her credit, Natalie Portman does her best with the material, but she was essentially wasted on this character. The next step in fixing Attack of the Clones should therefore be to expand Padmé’s role and make her more important to the story outside of being the future mother of Anakin’s children. After her  monochromatic persona of Queen Amidala fell away in the final act of The Phantom Menace, Padmé proved herself to be quite an interesting character, capable of maintaining her deception to the extent that she fools the Jedi and still finding the time to befriend young Anakin, making her the most engaging character in The Phantom Menace, although that’s not saying much. In Attack of the Clones, however, her motives are less clear, and therein lies the problem.

In The Phantom Menace Padmé‘s role boiled down to essentially saving her planet – her motives were always clear, and even when she takes the time to dress up as a maid and follow Qui-Gon Jinn into a junk shop it definitely gives the impression that she is curious and wants to learn more about the world that they have found themselves stranded on, whilst also keeping an eye on the clearly drunk Jedi Master. In Attack of the Clones, however, Padmé bounces between roles and seemingly allows all of the major decisions regarding where she goes and what she does to be decided by other characters, be it the Jedi, Anakin, her Security Chief, and even Palpatine. Padmé should certainly have taken the reigns more, perhaps in the sense that she is the one who decides to leave Coruscant and visit other planets, perhaps with Anakin in tow. As far as the politics is concerned, it gets even more dire.

We know from the text in the opening crawl of the film that Padmé is opposed to the creation of a Republic Army, but this position is never once challenged even as the Clone War erupts around her. In the opening scene of the film, Padmé should witness a Separatist attack on an innocent planet that leads to the destruction of her ship, having kills her bodyguards die in a clear Separatist raid rather than a political assassination. This would challenge Padmé‘s view of the idea of an Army and might create some conflict down the line that was woefully absent, and might explain why she ends up falling for Anakin – after seeing all of her capable guards slaughtered, perhaps spending time with Anakin on missions and learning more about how the Jedi benevolently resolve disputes would appeal to her. But this brings us to the next major point:

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Completely change Anakin’s character

We all know that the guy who was destined to become Darth Vader was essentially portrayed in the Prequel Trilogy as a whiny, stroppy brat who hated not getting his own way, moaned incessantly about every tiny problem in his life and switched between any degree of cringey or creepy when chatting up his future wife. But it didn’t have to be this way, if you think about it. After all, Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Anakin in A New Hope as if he was a great and noble Jedi, as well as a ‘good friend’, and wouldn’t it be far more tragic if a level-headed and by-the-books Jedi Knight fell to the dark side as opposed to a stroppy teen with anger issues?

This would also greatly improve the on-screen romance between Anakin and Padmé. After all, nobody on planet Earth has ever been fooled by the pathetic excuse for a romance that we see in Attack of the Clones, mostly because Anakin is such a monumental arse that it seems totally impossible that Padmé would ever fall for him, even if her mind was being manipulated by the Dark Side or whatever the expanded universe material has conjured up to explain away this point.

Whilst it may seem that at this point the film would be completely different after these changes, it would still be possible to implement these changes whilst keeping the ideas that we see in the finished film. Ultimately, even if the actual story of the film was exactly the same, it would still be a monumental improvement to expand Padmé‘s role and change Anakin’s character to fit the story better, and it would also lend more credibility to Old Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. The other scenes in Attack of the Clones are actually quite good, especially the parts with Obi-Wan as he attempts to unravel the thinly-veiled mysteries of the Clone troopers. The final and most pressing issue with Attack of the Clones can be fixed with one final amendment, and that is:

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Show why the Separatists are doing what they are doing

One of the main reasons why the politics in Attack of the Clones falls flat is that we are only given one side of the story, namely, the Republic side. There are moments in the film in which we hear Separatists talking, like the scene in which Obi-Wan eavesdrops on Dooku’s council discussing tactics, but we are never given tangible explanations as to why the Republic is splintering – surely if the Separatists leaving the Republic is central to the political dialogue in the film, we should at least have an idea as to why this is the case? Are we expected to believe that the vague ‘trade disputes’ mentioned in The Phantom Menace, a film set ten years before this one, are to blame? I don’t think so.

By effectively conveying to the audience the motives of the main villains, the film opens the door for possible fan debate over the morality of each faction – after all, the Republic stands for democracy and peace but is also equatable to modern-day ‘mega-states’, the epitome of centralised government, an idea that does not appeal to everyone in this day and age. Likewise, we could learn more about the methods of each faction – the Separatists use droids in combat rather than living people, so could this be twisted to imply that they want to reduce loss of Separatist life? Star Wars is certainly a franchise of clear-cut heroes and villains, but for a trilogy that leans more heavily on political dialogue and storytelling, perhaps this would have been a better direction to take things.

So they were my thoughts on how to ‘fix’ Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like either here on on Facebook, and if you have any points to add on how Attack of the Clones could be improved, be sure to leave them down in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Doctor Who – Who is the ‘Best Doctor’?

Looking around the internet for polls or lists on the topic of ‘Best Doctor’ in Doctor Who is essentially the equivalent of opening the Whovian equivalent of Pandora’s Box. Not only will any given list undoubtedly be wrong because it contradicts your own predetermined idea of who the Top 5 Best Doctors actually are, but any such list or poll that has a readily accessible comments section will, without fail, erupt into a war zone of competing opinions. But ultimately, is this all totally futile? How can anyone determine who the ‘Best Doctor’ actually is? What criteria do you use? Surely anyone who tries to rank the Doctors will be confounded by their own personal bias? To analyse this issue, I will be focusing on several trends that I often see in these lists that, whilst not necessarily unpopular, can be criticised nonetheless. To begin, a trend that disappoints me more than any of the others…

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The 80s Doctors are Always at the Bottom

The more mainstream lists on outlets like WhatCulture and the Radio Times obviously try to stir up as little controversy as possible with their lists. Unfortunately, this also means relegating the more unpopular Doctors to the bottom of their lists, notably Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. At first glance this does seem to be the most logical move – their eras were mired with production issues, inconsistent storylines and direction from a certain John-Nathan Turner that ran the show into the ground thanks to the extreme bias of Michael Grade, Margaret Thatcher’s puppet in the BBC. But when assessing who is the ‘Best Doctor’, should outside factors like production value and relative success of the seasons factor in? After all, anyone who has seen any of Sylvester McCoy’s episodes will agree that he makes a fantastic Doctor – in fact in the 1990s, during the wilderness years, he consistently topped polls of ‘Best Doctor’ because fans of the show were genuinely devastated that it had been cancelled – Seasons 25 and 26 were a notable improvement over their predecessors and it has essentially been confirmed now that Grade cancelled Doctor Who in the 80s based primarily on his own personal bias against the show, and little more.

Similarly, Peter Davison enjoyed a fairly successful run as the Doctor, with episodes like The Caves of Androzani, The Five Doctors and Earthshock being among the shows most popular DVD releases, even today. He was almost the ‘David Tennant’ before David Tennant was the Doctor, in that he was a younger, more energetic Doctor who was popular among female fans. Interestingly, David Tennant himself has stated that Davison was his primary inspiration for how he handled the role of the Doctor, and maintains that Davison is one of his favourite Doctors, so it seems ironic that he would consistently come at the bottom of more recent ‘Best Doctor’ polls. The oddball in all of this is Colin Baker who, unfortunately, is more justified in coming near the bottom of the polls – whilst he enjoyed an excellent run of Big Finish audios, it is understandable that they do not factor in as audiobooks are arguably the most niche of the Doctor Who expanded media, and his televised episodes are among the classic shows weakest, although there are some standout entries. The question remains – why the bias against 80s Doctors? It could mostly come down to taste – whilst 80s Who has some fantastic storytelling, the production values do let the show down in the eyes of many fans, and in the end the decision comes down entirely to personal taste. John-Nathan Turner’s campy style of set and costume design do not sit well with modern audiences, particularly compared to the more extravagant NuWho. One cannot help but shake the feeling that Doctors like McCoy and Davison coming bottom in the polls is down to little more than ignorance, however, since fans of NuWho are less and less likely to give their eras the chance that they deserve.

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The Relative Positions of Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee

This one is entirely dependant on the list in question, since some revere the position of Hartnell’s Doctor as ‘the one that started it all’ and others are based solely on fan voting input, which unsurprisingly gives Troughton a boost. In many ‘home made’ lists, however, particularly those made by fans who have self-confessed to never having seen any Classic Who, Hartnell and Troughton are used as ‘filler’ for the lower end spots despite their relative popularity. Whilst this may come as a surprise to some, Patrick Troughton in particular in one of the most popular Doctors, despite the fact that his era has huge gaps due to missing episodes. Stories like The Power of the Daleks, The Tomb of the Cybermen, Fury from the Deep, The Mind Robbers, The Invasion, The Evil of the Daleks and several others are considered essentials of Doctor Who’s monochrome era, and yet Troughton’s position in polls fluctuates more often that Steven Moffat’s script quality. Why is this?

Again, it comes down to simply ignorance. Many fans are put off by Classic Who as it stands and so are even less likely to watch Classic Who in black and white, regardless of how well the episodes are received. Still, at the end of the day, it’s their loss, and the relative position of Troughton on ‘Best Doctor’ lists has become a sort of litmus test for stalwart 60s Who fans to determine the extent of Classic Who that the creator of the list has actually seen, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, a similar occurrence mires Jon Pertwee’s era, which is due in part to the format changes that occur during this time – grounded on Earth for his first few seasons, Pertwee’s Doctor foregoes a lot of the space-time exploration to instead hold his ground on Earth, working with UNIT to fight off many alien invasions. The show morphed into more of a James Bond meets X-Files theme, as Pertwee’s Doctor took a more physically violent approach to dealing with menacing aliens, most notably his use of kung-fu and the occasional stolen alien blaster to dispatch his foes. Pertwee’s era also introduced us to fan-favourite companions like Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, so the impact of thie era cannot be underestimated. Another factor to consider in his era is the introduction of The Master, and Roger Delgado expertly fills the role of the Moriarty to Pertwee’s Holmes. It’s great fun, but again, it comes down to personal taste – and it would seem that more recently the odds have not favoured the Third Doctor in fan polls, despite some genuinely fantastic episodes in his era like Frontier in Space, Terror of the Autons and The Time Warrior. 

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David Tennant at the Top

One of my previous articles on David Tennant may have given the impression that I don’t rate him very highly as a Doctor, but that isn’t the case. David Tennant was the Doctor that I grew up with, along with Eccleston and McCoy, so in many ways he is ‘My Doctor’, and I look on his era with fondness, despite the disproportionate amount of criticism that I dish out against it. Regardless, it does not sit right with me that Tennant regularly tops lists of ‘Best Doctor’ – obviously he is a lot of people’s favourite Doctor, that much is clear, but it seems that a lot of lists put him at the top to avoid controversy rather than to actually celebrate him as a Doctor. After all, his run was good, but was it consistent? Tennant took the Doctor to a dark place, essentially transforming him from a simple space-time traveller into an allegory for Space Jesus, with prophetic (and shamelessly and tediously repeated) arc words of his death, many episodes before it actually happened. Russell treated the end of his run as if Doctor Who itself would die with the Tenth Doctor, and unfortunately as a result many fans turned off when Tennant left, buying into the hype.

David Tennant played the Doctor well when he was actually playing The Doctor, but a big problem with his characterisation is that he would often forget who he was playing. For the self-proclaimed ‘Man Who Never Would’, Tennant’s Doctor dabbled in an inordinate amount of genocide, cold-blooded murder and insane megalomania, which in many ways unravelled his mandate as the Doctor in a way that most other actors who played the role did not have to contend with. It is also impossible to ignore that whilst Tennant had a handful of stellar episodes like The Girl in the Fireplace and Midnight, he also played host to many of Doctor Who’s most embarrassing episodes, ones like Fear Her, Love and Monsters, The Unicorn and the Wasp, Partners in Crime and New Earth. Again, this is down to personal opinion, but if people who have never even seen the majority of Doctor Who can attempt to rank the Doctors based on anecdote, rumour and affirmed negative consensus, then I can objectively rank episodes of David Tennant’s run that I feel are bad, thank you very much. Is Tennant a popular Doctor? Yes. Is he a good Doctor? Yes. Is he the best Doctor? Doubtful.

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Baker and Smith, the old Second Best

In light of the ‘Tennant Problem’, more self-aware lists have deliberately denied him the top spot in favour of an equally safe alternate choice for number one – Tom Baker or Matt Smith. The word ‘overrated’ is often thrown around to refer to the trio of Baker, Tennant and Smith, but this isn’t entirely fair – all three have legitimate reasons for coming in the top five, as they are all brilliant actors – if anything the continual reappearance of any of these three in the top spot has just become annoying, mostly because, as anyone who has seen most of Classic Who will tell you, all of the Doctors are played by brilliant actors. After all, this entire issue comes down to personal opinion, both in how you rank the Doctors and also how you decide the criteria for ranking the Doctors. Target Audience is a massive factor too – ask a group of hardened Big Finish fans to rank the Doctors and Tennant will undoubtedly come near the bottom, with Colin Baker usually appearing near the top. Ask the same of a group of NuWho fans and the positions will be reversed. So why not shake things up a bit?

If it has just become the norm to always put Tennant at the top, Smith and Baker in second and Davison, McCoy and poor old Colin at the bottom, then what is even the point of doing a ‘Best Doctor’ list at all? Fans could debate endlessly over the fact that McCoy is an underappreciated gem, or that Colin Baker is much better in the audiobooks, or that David Tennant is overrated, or that NuWho is better than Classic Who, or whatever the debate happens to be, but at the end of the day, there will never be a consensus. And why is that?

Well, its because Doctor Who is so vast and so diverse, and it spans such a colourful and controversial history that it has attracted fans of all different walks of life from all over the world, and getting such a huge amount of individuals to agree on such a widely spanning range of different factors is simply impossible. After all, how many other shows have such a diverse audience? To many, the Doctor Who fandom comes across as more like a religious cult than a fanbase – and their religion has many different sects, each with their own unique beliefs and customs. Big Finish fans, NuWho fans, Moffat fans, Davies fans. Classic fans – they are all fans of Doctor Who for different reasons, they all enjoy the same franchise via radically different mediums, and many cross over many of these – I consider myself to be a member of all of these creeds, some more than others, so within the fanbase I find my loyalties divided – but at the end of the day, one must remember that all of these factions come under the monolithic umbrella-term of simply being a Doctor Who fan – something that requires dedication but is an enormously rewarding experience. So if NuWho fangirls love Tennant, let them. If Big Finish fans love Colin, let them. And I’ll happily enjoy Sylvester McCoy episodes in spite of where he might rank on ‘Best Doctor’ lists, like many more who are certain, regardless of what anyone else says, that whoever happens to be ‘their Doctor’ is the best.

So there’s my rambling thoughts on the idea of the ‘Best Doctor’, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Doctor Who Theories – What Became of the Paradigm Daleks?

As I already alluded to in my Paradigm Daleks Custom Showcase, the Paradigm Daleks don’t really rank very highly on my list of best Dalek designs. They’re clunky, the colours don’t work and they look like oversized action figures. Originally introduced as a means of ‘rebooting’ the Daleks, the Paradigm were supposed to be a new elite class of Dalek that was to replace the 2005-2009 Time War ‘bronze’ design seen from Dalek to Journey’s End. However, these new Daleks didn’t go down very well with the fanbase, and were ridiculed mercilessly after their reveal. The writing team of Doctor Who at the time clearly realised this, because after their initial appearance in Victory of the Daleks, the Paradigm rarely appeared again, and they were seemingly erased from the canon by the time Peter Capaldi came along. So the question remains – what happened to the Paradigm Daleks? I’ve come up with a few theories over the years as to what became of them, and so in no particular order, I’ll be listing them right here. To begin:

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They Did Their Job and Disappeared

To start with, here is what is arguably the most boring theory in this list – that the Paradigm Daleks fulfilled their task of restoring the Dalek race, and then were simply re-absorbed into the ranks of the Daleks and phased out over time. This theory is backed up by several points of evidence – firstly, the Paradigm Daleks in Asylum of the Daleks are seen working alongside the Time-War era Daleks, implying that the ‘restoration of the Daleks’ that they speak of in Victory was completed by then, and that the Dalek Empire was back to the height of its power. Also, the Paradigm Daleks are not seen again after this episode, implying that once their task was completed, they were no longer required. This seems to be the most likely cause of their disappearance, since we are never shown anything on-screen that suggests otherwise, but again, this is a rather boring explanation.

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Another Dalek Civil War Occurred

This was always my favourite theory when I was a kid, the idea that the Paradigm Daleks were eventually overthrown and destroyed by the Bronze Daleks. In-canon, however, it doesn’t make a lot of sense – the New Dalek Paradigm is supposed to be made up of Daleks with totally pure DNA, and so they should represent the epitome of the Dalek race – in the episode Victory of the Daleks, the bronze Daleks willingly allow the Paradigm to obliterate them on the grounds that they are impure, and the Paradigm are supreme – however, these Daleks were created under unusual circumstances (grown from Davros’ cells, to be precise) and chances are they were so hell-bent on restoring the Daleks that they were willing to do anything to get the Daleks back on track. Interestingly, the Doctor Who Experience had a setup that suggested that this is what actually happened off-screen, with the Paradigm coming under attack from the ‘children of Davros’ who claim that they are the pure ones.

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Political Shifts Render Them Obsolete

This theory is sort of a ‘blend’ of the previous two, and postulates that originally the Paradigm ruled as the ‘pure’ class of Daleks, but eventually something happens to the progenitor that means that the supply of Paradigm Daleks begins to run short. This would explain why in Doctor Who Expanded Media that was released following Victory, the Paradigm Daleks make up the entire Dalek race, but by the time of Asylum, they take the role of an ‘officer class’ (to use Steven Moffat’s exact words). This could also explain why Davros and several other types of Dalek are present in The Magicians Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, as the power vacuum left by the significantly reduced number of Paradigm Daleks require an alternate means of Dalek ‘production’. This may also explain the presence of a Dalek ‘parliament’, since several factions of Daleks would have to negotiate a truce and accept their differences in order to survive, if one could picture such a thing. Overall, I’m not a big fan of this theory, but it does seem to explain a lot.

 

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They Were Erased From History

Whilst a lot of people would happily erase all memory of the Paradigm Daleks from history, alongside other narrative missteps like Jar Jar Binks, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the more recent Jaws movies, they are unfortunately ingrained in the Doctor Who mythos forevermore. However, it is possible that some ‘timey-wimey’ mishaps may have erased them from Doctor Who’s internal timeline. After all, within the context of the show the events of certain episodes have been overwritten, such as Name of the Doctor being overwritten (thank goodness) by the events of Time of the Doctor, the alternate universes created in both The Big Bang and The Wedding of River Song ceasing to exist after history was alteredand the fact that in the finale of The Day of the Doctor the entire Time War conclusion was altered. In fact, this seems to be a plot device that Moffat is particularly fond of, and so it is remotely possible that the Paradigm may have suffered the same fate. After all, we are given no explanation at all as to why the Bronze Daleks seem to be in control again from Into the Dalek onward, and even the Doctor doesn’t seem to notice.

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The Paradigm Has Always Existed

This theory is a bit far-fetched. But again, there is at least some evidence to suggest that it could at least be remotely plausible, and when you think about it, there might actually be some grounds to it, and it might just solve several long-standing inconsistencies in the Dalek design. To begin this theory, we need to go all the way back to Genesis of the Daleks. This episode essentially lays out the Dalek origin story, and explains how Davros manipulated his race into creating what would become the most ruthless killing machine in the universe. However, as may people have pointed out, the Daleks seen in Genesis do not resemble the Daleks seen in their first episode, The Daleks, and instead take the form of the gunmetal grey, independently-mobile, battle-ready Daleks seen in Planet of the Daleks, Destiny of the Daleks and Resurrection of the Daleks. The original Daleks were silver and blue, with no slats on the midsection of their casing, and lacked an independent power supply. So why is this?

The true explanation is the use of props – due to budget reasons, the BBC couldn’t create a convincing number of original Dalek props for Genesis and had to settle for the version seen in Planet, even though this creates a narrative inconsistency. In-universe, this can be explained as the Daleks initially looking one way, then slowly adapting to the sedentary lifestyle of their city, before re-adapting their more war-orientated appearance when they realise that they are not alone in the universe.

However, I have a better theory, and it’s to do with the Paradigm. In Victory of the Daleks, the Supreme Dalek states that the Paradigm will ‘return to their own time and begin again’, suggesting the Paradigm intended to go back in time, to Skaro, and rebuild the Dalek Empire there. When next we see Skaro, it has been inexplicably rebuilt following the events of Remembrance of the Daleks, and it is now populated with Daleks of all different designs, most notably, the silver and blue classic Daleks from The Daleks. Could it be that the Paradigm somehow manipulated the timelines to re-boot the Daleks, independently of Davros’ Genesis design? Imagine the Dalek history as being two timelines working in parallel – the Genesis Daleks are created, escape Skaro, build an Empire, and the events of Planet of the Daleks through to Remembrance play out as normal, then we have the Time War, then the post-Time War era, and then the Paradigm – who then go back in time to a different point on Skaro, build the city, and then ‘begin again’ as the Supreme states, eventually leading through to The Magician’s Apprentice, at which point the two timelines converge, hence the appearance of multiple Daleks at once.

This theory is pretty wild, and it all but devastates the pre-existing Dalek timeline – but if you think about it, it isn’t really much of a timeline at all. And after all, the Paradigm actually share some similarities with the Dalek Invasion of Earth design from the 60s, notably the larger, bulkier bases, the sleeker and less tank-like design, and the longer appendages. This would also explain why the Daleks from 60s Who seem to have much more advanced technology than the Daleks from 80s Who, such as the TARDIS-like time machine that the Daleks have in The Chase, compared with the plasma ball ‘time controller’ that the Daleks are stuck with in Remembrance. The Paradigm could exist as a sort of ‘secret society’ of Daleks, the Dalek Illuminati perhaps, who only show themselves in times of crisis and are otherwise hidden in the shadows. After all, there is a Dalek in the Paradigm specifically called ‘The Eternal’, a rank that is never explained. Could this Daleks’ job be to ensure that the two conflicting timelines never cancel each other out, thereby ensuring the Daleks exist forever in a sort of self-fulfilling Ouroboros?

Probably not. But it was worth a try. If you enjoyed this list, be sure to leave a Like and Follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. You can also check out my older articles down below, and feel free to browse my collection of Dalek Customs if, like me, the Daleks are particularly fascinating to you. Thanks for reading!